Thursday, January 27, 2011

My Pathfinder Campaign Mad House Rules

I'm (once more) away from (my second) home. Thus, until I can have access again to my personal notes and books, I thought about posting some of the house rules that I'm using in my Pathfinder campaign .

These rules try to reflect a heroic and high-fantasy style of game. Please, bear in mind that game balance is not one of my concerns. Other commentaries follow some house rules.


Hit Points:  At 1st level you acquire your full Hit Dice as bonus hit points. For example: a fighter gains 10 extra hit points.


Feat and Ability Score Increases: All player characters gain one feat at every level. There aren't Ability Score increases due to leveling, but you can spend a feat to add +1 to one Ability Score. All Player Character receives +1 to all Ability Scores at 10th level and 20th level. The idea here is to increase versatility.

Favored Class: For every 5 levels in your favored class you gain a bonus feat. This one was stolen from Conan d20.

Iterative Attacks rules from Trailblazer. Basically this means that all characters can opt to make two attacks at 6th level, each with a –2 penalty.  This penalty decreases at higher levels. I will try to do a Trailblazer review next week. It really is a terrific sourcebook.

Staggered Condition: Your Character acquires this condition when his Nonlethal Damage reaches 75% of his current Hit Points. This rules was created to widen the narrow margin of the staggered condition and to encourage the use of knockout attacks; unfortunately it requires a little more math from the players.

Disable Condition: Your Character remains disable and doesn't fall unconscious and dying if his negative Hit Points are equal or higher than his Constitution modifier . Example: an elf with Con 15 (+2) would be disabled at 0, –1 and –2 hit points. A great rule from Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved.

Death: Your Character only dies when he hits a number of negative hit points equal to 10 + your Constitution Score. For example: a dwarf with 18 of Con only dies at -28 hit points. There is a wonderful variant for D&D 3.5 of the 4th Edition's death rules that I'm tempted to use in my next Pathfinder campaign***.

Cleave Feat: I  use the 3.5 version. Never got used to the Pathfinder's one. We house ruled Great Cleave in a way that you also gain an extra attack if you deal massive damage or confirm a critical threat.

Endurance Feat: The normal benefits of the feat, plus the Character may sleep in any armor which he is proficient without becoming fatigued. Also, while fatigued, he suffers just –1 penalty to Strength and Dexterity. When exhausted, he suffers –4 penalty to Strength and Dexterity.

Mounted Combat: You gain a +3 bonus to attack (+1 from higher ground, +2 from combat advantage, almost like flanking). You gain +5 ft. reach to your weapon and, if you move more than 10 ft. before attacking, you can substitute your Strength modifier to damage for your mount's Strength modifier. This rule was a friend's suggestion and I used it because we both love mounted combat and the historical tactical advantages linked to such fighting style.

Gang Up Bonus: Inspired again in Conan d20. Every attacker after the first gains a +1 cumulative bonus to attack one target at the same round (maximum +4). This rules make mobs of lesser monsters like goblinoids scarier.

Psionic Powers and Spell’s Base DC: I use 10 + ½ caster level + key ability score modifier as an universal DC. The Heighten Spell feat is removed. I took this rule from Green Ronin's outstanding Skulls & Bones. And I like to empower my casters.

Improved Spells & Powers Damage: All dice damage derived from spells, psionic power, spell-like abilities and such are improved by one step. For example: fireballs deals d8s. As I said, I'm not concerned with balance and I really like powerful spellcasters. I also like to create social and weird mystical limitations to make may casters more unique in my settings. Therefore, this rule is something very personal and I really can't recommend it for everyone, as it requires a lot of ad hoc judgment. For example, I don't use it for effects that add damage to melee or ranged attacks. Spells and powers with fixed amounts of damage may require some change also. Until now, my players have enjoyed it.



Spell Mastery Feat: Your Character can also cast these spells spontaneously, but he must “burn” another slot of the same level to do it.

Simplified Format for Monsters: I'm still using this method at middle and high-levels to customize my lesser monsters and NPCs, specially when I have little preparation time for my games. It is far from perfect but it's working so far.


There are other rules, but those above are my favorite and I'll probably keep using them in other campaigns. Finally, I also use some very particular rules for Action Points (based at first on Unearthed Arcana) and Hero Points (this based on Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved), but I'll leave those for another time.


*** Check this link for those cool "death and dying" rules I mentioned.